Not smart (or healthy) to use smartphone too much

Research indicates that using a smartphone too much is increasing stress, is a threat to health, and could result in earlier death.

This could mean that too much raging online increases rage levels, causing more social strife.

I wonder if how you use your smartphone may matter more than how much you use it.

NY Times: Putting Down Your Phone May Help You Live Longer

By raising levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, our phone time may also be threatening our long-term health.

An increasing body of evidence suggests that the time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision-making skills.

But there is another reason for us to rethink our relationships with our devices. By chronically raising levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, our phones may be threatening our health and shortening our lives.

Until now, most discussions of phones’ biochemical effects have focused on dopamine, a brain chemical that helps us form habits — and addictions. Like slot machines, smartphones and apps are explicitly designed to trigger dopamine’s release, with the goal of making our devices difficult to put down.

This is mostly about marketing – selling products and selling online services. Too much inane advertising watching passive media could also raise stress levels.

This manipulation of our dopamine systems is why many experts believe that we are developing behavioral addictions to our phones. But our phones’ effects on cortisol are potentially even more alarming.

Cortisol is our primary fight-or-flight hormone. Its release triggers physiological changes, such as spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, that help us react to and survive acute physical threats.

These effects can be lifesaving if you are actually in physical danger — like, say, you’re being charged by a bull. But our bodies also release cortisol in response to emotional stressors where an increased heart rate isn’t going to do much good, such as checking your phone to find an angry email from your boss.

Not taking your work home with you is important in reducing work related stress. I’m not set up to get work emails on my phone, so I’m not effectively on call.

If they happened only occasionally, phone-induced cortisol spikes might not matter. But the average American spends four hours a day staring at their smartphone and keeps it within arm’s reach nearly all the time, according to a tracking app called Moment. The result, as Google has noted in a report, is that “mobile devices loaded with social media, email and news apps” create “a constant sense of obligation, generating unintended personal stress.”

“Your cortisol levels are elevated when your phone is in sight or nearby, or when you hear it or even think you hear it,” says David Greenfield, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. “It’s a stress response, and it feels unpleasant, and the body’s natural response is to want to check the phone to make the stress go away.”

So an addiction to being connected is a large part of the problem.

Any time you check your phone, you’re likely to find something else stressful waiting for you, leading to another spike in cortisol and another craving to check your phone to make your anxiety go away. This cycle, when continuously reinforced, leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels.

And chronically elevated cortisol levels have been tied to an increased risk of serious health problems, including depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, high blood pressure, heart attack, dementia and stroke.

Making it likely people are getting crankier, more easily offended and upset, more intolerant.

Elevated cortisol levels impair the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain critical for decision-making and rational thought. “The prefrontal cortex is the brain’s Jiminy Cricket,” says Dr. Lustig. “It keeps us from doing stupid things.”

Impairment of the prefrontal cortex decreases self-control. When coupled with a powerful desire to allay our anxiety, this can lead us to do things that may be stress-relieving in the moment but are potentially fatal, such as texting while driving.

The effects of stress can be amplified even further if we are constantly worrying that something bad is about to happen, whether it’s a physical attack or an infuriating comment on social media.

Some people seem to be constantly worried about potential wars, perceived injustices and threats (justified or not) of reduced rights – and more susceptible to believing conspiracies?

To make your phone less stressful, start by turning off all notifications except for the ones you actually want to receive.

Next, pay attention to how individual apps make you feel when you use them. Which do you check out of anxiety? Which leave you feeling stressed? Hide these apps in a folder off your home screen. Or, better yet, delete them for a few days and see how it feels.

Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to create healthy boundaries with devices that are deliberately designed to discourage them. But by reducing our stress levels, doing so won’t just make us feel better day-to-day. It might actually lengthen our lives.

If you have a smartphone addiction try to use it less, stress less, and what you do may end up being better quality engagement.

 

Nash supports Clark on compassionate approach to addiction, but cannabis company collapses

Agreeing with Helen Clark, Police Minister Stuart Nash promotes “A more restorative, compassionate and health-focussed approach to addiction, rather than treating all addicts as criminals, is, in my view, the only way we are going to deal effectively with the problem.”

But the lure of cannabis as a money maker has already had a casualty as a cannabis company fails.

Mental Health and Addiction report repeats well known problems

The Mental Health and Addiction report details well known problems with mental health and drug issues, and makes 40 recommendations. Will the Government actually do something major to address the issues?  Or will we just have another inquiry in a few years time, as people keep suffering and dying?

Beehive: Mental Health and Addiction report charts new direction

Health Minister Dr David Clark says the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink how we handle some of the biggest challenges we face as a country.

The Government has today publicly released the report of the Inquiry in full, less than a week after receiving it.

“Mental health and addiction are issues for all New Zealanders. Every community and just about every family has someone in it that has lived with a mental health or addiction challenge.

“The Inquiry heard many stories of people who did not get the help they needed and deserved. We must listen to these voices of people with lived experience.

“The report charts a new direction for mental health and addiction in New Zealand, one that puts people at the centre of our approach.

“It is clear we need to do more to support people as they deal with these issues – and do a lot more to intervene earlier and support wellbeing in our communities.

“The Inquiry panel has delivered a set of strong and coherent recommendations covering everything from the social determinants of health and wellbeing, to expanding access to treatment services and taking strong action on alcohol and drugs.

“We are working our way carefully through the 40 recommendations and will formally respond in March. I want to be upfront with the public, however, that many of the issues we’re facing, such as workforce shortages, will take years to fix.

“Reshaping our approach to mental health and addiction is no small task and will take some time. But I’m confident this report points us in the right direction, and today marks the start of real change for the better,” David Clark says.

Clark and Labour said urgent action was required – last year. Now he says “Reshaping our approach…will take some time”.

ODT:  Mental health shake-up urged

Mental health and addiction services are unbalanced, under-resourced, unfocused and require a major shakeup to make them patient-centric, the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction says.

A 219-page report released yesterday made 40 recommendations in a broad assessment of health issues which affect an estimated 20% of New Zealanders each year, and 50%-80% of people at least once in their lifetime.

”We think New Zealand’s future mental health and addiction system should build on the foundations in place, but should look and be very different,” the report said.

”At its heart should be a vision of mental health and wellbeing for all … hospital and inpatient units will not be the centre of the system.

”Instead, the community will be central, with a full raft of intervention and respite options designed to intervene early, keep people safe and avoid inpatient treatment where possible.”

Some recommendations are controversial, such as setting a targets for reduction in suicides – a 20% drop by 2030 – and to measure the effectiveness of mental health and addiction services.

New Zealand’s approach to drugs needed to change, the report said.

”While New Zealand was the first country to introduce a state-sponsored needle exchange programme, we seem to have lost our spirit and failed to put people’s health at the centre of our approach.”

It was similarly forceful on the place of alcohol in society.

”We do not believe one in five New Zealanders drinking hazardously each year is a small minority,” it said.

”We also know that alcohol’s reach across society is far greater than simply the sum of its impacts on individual drinkers; families, friends and communities are all touched through one person’s drinking ”

Key recommendations

• Repeal and replace the Mental Health Act.
• Review laws and regulations concerning drug possession and sale of alcohol.
• Set a target of a 20% reduction in suicide rates by 2030.
• Establish a suicide prevention office.
• Establish a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.
• Significantly increase access to mental health and addiction services.
• Make improving mental health a specific focus of the primary healthcare system.
• Strengthen the consumer voice in developing mental health and addiction programmes.
• Make families more involved in treatment.
• Improve training and retention of mental health and addiction workers.

 

 

Sale mania

In retail a sale used to be an annual and special promotion. There used to be few if any pre-Christmas sales – that was traditionally a period of maximising turnover and maximum margins. Now sales are common right through the last months of the year.

For many outlets ‘sales’ now seems to be a weekly marketing tool – so much that unless you are desperate buying many things at non-sale price is foolish.

Rather than give people a break from sales after the commercially over-driven Christmas, an onslaught of post-Christmas sales has become the norm.

I saw ‘Boxing Day Sales’ being advertised on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. One large retailer advised that you could start shopping online for their Boxing Day Sale at 10:30 pm on Christmas Eve.

Boxing Day was full of sale mania – manic marketing and manic shopping.

It seems that it is now the biggest retail day of the year. That seems nuts to me. Christmas can be a very expensive time, so who would then want to load up the credit card even more or spend what’s left of their holiday pay? Many people, according to the ‘news’ (media outlets who benefit from the sales’ advertising give free promotions in a slow news period).

Sales are the new norm. Boxing Day sales will inevitably morph in to End of Year sales, then New Year sales, then marketing maniacs may have to get creative thinking of names for their promotions.

Shopping seems to have become an addiction, created and fed by retail chains. Many people seem to have become chained to over-commercialisation, and gross over-consumption. This adds to a lot of waste and rubbish and pollution.

Not everyone is afflicted. Many people will be on holiday (but some on holiday may simply have shifted their shopping addiction to a different location (albeit with largely the same retail chains).

I didn’t venture out at all yesterday, we had a family day at home. I did buy a lawnmower at a boxing day sale six years ago, but I don’t think I have indulged in post-Christmas wallet emptying since then.

Retail addiction has been given a euphemism – retail therapy. That’s a cynical and ironic description for a modern problem, trying to normalise the trashing of our planet as if we need and deserve it.

We will get what we deserve when we get sucked into sales we don’t need, to buy crap we don’t need, that adds pressure to our planet’s resources that it doesn’t need. Or if we manage to survive unscathed it will leave a burden for our children or grandchildren.

The retail spiral is out of control, with no sign of it abating. The population in general is addicted thanks to pervasive and calculated marketing messages.

Who needs a government to mind control their population when they can leave it to retail proxies? Of course the Government is complicit as they rake in the taxes. It has become a massive ponzi scheme, with no sign of a way of the ride to self destruction.

Ibogaine – addiction cure?

There is currently research and trials into a drug called Ibogaine (including in New Zealand) which is supposed to be very effective and fast at helping people off addictions.

Ibogaine is a psychoactive alkaloid naturally occurring in the West African shrub iboga. While ibogaine is a mild stimulant in small doses, in larger doses it induces a profound psychedelic state.

Historically, it has been used in healing ceremonies and initiations by members of the Bwiti religion in various parts of West Africa.

People with problem substance use have found that larger doses of ibogaine can significantly reduce withdrawal from opiates and temporarily eliminate substance-related cravings.

http://tvnz.co.nz/close-up/ibogaine-trial-worth-risk-video-4926416
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibogaine
http://www.maps.org/research/ibogaine/

According to the item that was on Close-Up it doesn’t get much money for trials because it’s a natural product, so large pharma won’t do anything with it.